The Sweet Smell of Home

As an extension of my previous work with regard to my childhood home, this week I dwelled deeper into the associations of my self with things and people around me as a child. I created an autobiographica which portrayed the multiple characters and spaces around me from roughly a decade ago, and the effect they had on my senses. For the same, I made use of my work done in the past six weeks in the Visual and Spatial Representation sessions. Integrating my previous work to form one meaningful scenario was challenging, but also enjoyable as it provided me the freedom to experiment with the relations of the characters and spaces I had created earlier.

It took a considerable amount of thinking to fish out memories from that long ago, but I realised that the portrayal of the memories that struck me first was of key importance, for they definitely had a stronger impact on my mind than the others. Still, with the innumerable thoughts flooding my head, I was unable to consolidate them and select a common theme. This left me in a bit of a puzzle, but not for long. For when my mother packed home-made snacks for me and sent them to me all the way from Mumbai, all it took was the aroma of the theplas (a Gujurati flatbreads) to transport me back to my childhood home where the smell of food engulfed the house whenever my mother was cooking. This was my Eureka moment! This is what I chose to represent through my personal autobiographica- the distinct smells in and around my childhood home and the memories attached with each. It took some brainstorming to think of the various smells around me at that age, but when I stopped thinking very hard and simply took a mental tour of my home, I was able to unearth a lot of memories, because, well, the ‘nose knows’. The fragrance of the incense sticks every time my grandmother prayed in our small temple, the intoxicating smell of chocolate in the nearby icecream parlour, the smell of damp earth after the rains- these are just few of the smells that bring about an array of vivid memories in my head, even ten years later. After establishing the overall theme, it became easier to compose my previous work and involve the characters and spaces into a single story.

To depict the different smells in my graphic novella, I used a variety of textures and colours. Also, the use of a black monochrome background for older scenarios and a vibrant background for the rest helps create a distinction between memories of the past and the future. An autobiographica, just like a comic strip, must portray ideas mainly through graphics and not via text, and this is something I initially struggled with. While resolving this, I realised how powerfully an image can put across ideas and emotions without being supplemented with a lot of text.

What is most interesting about this exercise is how the autobiographica goes beyond mere representation of memories, to creating an image of what my childhood home would look like if I could redesign it now. The key ideas in the autobiographica, here, the association of smells with different spaces and memories, were picked up and used to redesign my house.

This was a fun and intuitive exercise where I reminisced memories from my childhood that were very close to my heart and understood my associations with certain places due to my olfactory senses in depth. I thoroughly enjoyed this exercise and look forward to incorporating the essence of my autobiographica in my redesigned childhood home.

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